Saturday, December 29, 2012

On taking on another’s death

The list of who I’d die

For is very short:

My wife, my kids,

And my three dogs,

Except I just lost

One and was never

Never close to death.

Suddenly, she in just

One day collapsed

And I stood helplessly.

No mountain lion

To face nor speeding car,

No insane madman

Nor falling star.

She curled up inside

Around her wound

And died, no plea

For sympathy, no doubt

Or questioning. It was

As though I’d let her leash

Slip through my fingers.

On Madness


Is he mad now?

We’ve seen him talking

To his one remaining dog;

Then watching to see

If she misses Ginger

As much as he;

Which anyone should know,

And abandoning his books

For tablets without print

Or sense then scribbling

In them. The rain

Is falling again

So he makes tears

Of it and listens

Intently with pen poised

As though there were

Someone out there

For him in the darkness

With dank wet fur

Ready to lead him away

Whenever he would choose.

On weeping


If one weeps, well that

Is what one does. There is no

Rule of right and wrong,

Perhaps a song brings

Back a girl once longed for

Or a fragrance in the air

Or a time of delight suddenly lost;

So for protection

We don’t remember

Much more than the feeling,

Stealing up against our will

In splashes of tears;

Which we seek to hide

For their presence

Is shameful and must be

Concealed at all costs –

If we’re a man,

And if not well

There is no hope for that either,

Each weeping in his own way

Softly, quietly, gravely, still

Friday, December 28, 2012

And then Ginger died


            Maybe if we haven’t degenerated as

            H. G. Wells foretold, we might build

            Ships or worlds to escape the collision

            With Andromeda, and maybe Susan

            Won’t actually die though she can only

            Be on her feet for short periods of time

            Which casts a sufficient pall,

            But reduced as it is to prose

            As it invariably is and that

            Not quite what I meant . . .. 

            Sure we can talk in prose.

            Most of us do, but when something

            I wrote quite right is stripped

            Like a triptych of its illumination,

            I may lean forward and look out

            My study window to where Ginger

            Used to spend her time, a little time

            As it happens, nine years and five

            Months.  Sage and Duffy search about,

            Wanting to turn her into prose,

            But she will never be again.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Andromeda rushing our way

Andromeda is rushing toward us

Like an assassin’s bullet

And will wrench into fragments

Any thoughts of how it used to be

On the roller coaster, say, by the sea

Looking out at waves coming in

At only a fraction of the speed.

We have been warned by

Pestering meteors, comets,

And our pock-marked moon,

But looking out we can’t see

Them with our naked eye,

The pathological damage,

And so believe in a peace

That in our time shall prevail

A wonderful mystical state,

And though it has never been

It is our belief – even though

Someone this very instant is planting

An IED for our unsuspecting feet:

And will spin them off in flashes of light.

A Distant Whistling

I knew her rough direction

And could see the tracks

Although a train hasn’t been

This way in years.  There was

A rose-petalness to her lips

As I kissed her good-bye,

And her natural softness

Which coupled with her

Adamantine resolve buckled

Her, sending her bloodied

To the ground.  I found

Her getting into bed, furious

At her traitorous cramping-legs

Though not able to recall them

The next day and seeing no

Reason to stay as though

She were like me who puts

Words to these wrenching things,

Seeing the colors change and fade

Here as at the river, hemming

In everything I try to remember.

A game of hearts

        In the past I never counted cards

            But I did have a feel for when

            A certain card would appear.

            My card-counting partner

            Would nod his head in approval,

            But I’m retired now

            And no longer play --

            Until recently.  My hand

            Is spread out before me.

            I’m pretty sure my partner

            Isn’t counting her’s

            And may not even care

            That we are losing.

            She seems impatient

            To be done, and I can’t

            Blame her.  I look again

            At my cards and hope, but

            There is nothing I can play

            To change a thing.

            She smiles contentedly

            As I send up a silent prayer.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A short lesson on time

“What have you heard?”

“You know, the usual word:

Assassins and bio-weapons

Proliferating, but nothing

Specific.  We’re probably

Safe here for a time.”

“Or half a time, I’m

Inclined to believe.

Even less, perhaps.

Have you seen the size

Of them in the streets

At night, frightening

Joggers and dog-walkers?

How can you say ‘nothing specific’?”

“Nothing specifically new, I meant.

We’ve always heard wolves

Howling not far from here.

It is what we’re used to.

But go out in the sunlight

Tomorrow morning and you’ll see

Peace reigning and time suspended.”

Worry for the morning after


Knowing when to back away

And be still, to will, or rather

Allow it to work its way

Despite any urgent wishing,

Despite the sun coming up now

Over the mountain outside my window

Isn’t something innate with me.

How could it be trained

As I was to act and change

Everything in my path

To olive drab?  I’ve seen

The sun rise above chaparral

At Camp Pendleton, Cheju-do,

And Twenty-nine Palms.

There is always something

One can do to make it change

If one has the strength

And isn’t afraid to act, at least

Until the freezing of night

Creeps into morning and one’s

Cold fears are rendered still.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Escriva's Opus Dei & Frame's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God

With John Frame’s The Escondido Theology and Evangelical Reunion in the back of my mind (but not the reason I decided to watch the movie There Be Dragons – I was skimming through the Netflix movies and thought it would be an action movie about the Spanish Civil War J. Instead, I discovered the movie to be based upon the life of the Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva. The “action” surrounds the relationship of Escriva and a perhaps fictitious childhood friend Manolo. The more important part of the movie describes Escriva’s saintly development and his influence on others.

In regard to the “Second Kingdom” and Frame’s “Escondido” conflict and debate, I noticed that Escriva was very-much involved with Christian “application.” Frame’s criticism of the Escondido professors includes his assertion that they teach that “Those who try to show the application of Scripture to the daily problems of believers are headed toward a Christless Christianity.” Did Escriva and his Opus Dei drive his followers toward a “Christless Christianity”? Without knowing fully what the Escondido Professors are arguing (or the effects of Opus Dei), and perhaps having them wrong, if we have our “eyes upon Jesus” which is something urged upon us through Scripture (and in countless sermons I can bear witness to), won’t we want to “behave” and “act” as He would? If so then we have entered the theological world of “application.”

On page 76-77 The Escondido Theology, Frame defends himself against R. Scott Clarke when he writes, “the application of God’s word” was his [Frame’s] focus in the first seventy-five pages [of the Doctrine of the Knowledge of God]. After describing this focus he responds to R. Scott Clark’s criticism by asking, “am I not permitted to make mention of what we do with God’s word? Even after speaking elaborately about the primacy of God in revelation? Theology is certainly something we do . . . and it is certainly the application of the revelation of the Word.”

Perhaps we can’t see it if we just look about us today, but we can learn about it from reading Church history, that is, the swing back and forth between faith and works, or more specifically between the extremes of “one needs only faith and needn’t at all concern one’s self about what one does,” and “one won’t make it to heaven unless his good works qualify him for the trip.”

In reading the excerpt from Escriva’s book it is clear that his works-like injunctions aren’t taught from the average Protestant, and probably not from the average Catholic pulpit. But surely, since we have been saved for good works, it isn’t out of line to describe some of them. [See an excerpt from Escriva’s book The Way at

I wouldn’t support all of Escriva’s injunctions, nevertheless it is refreshing that Escriva saw the lack of “application” in the church of his day and chose to do something about it. Also, it is notable that his superiors, perhaps up to the pope himself, allowed him to create his Opus Dei organization.

When I was in the Charismatic Church “Faith Fellowship” back in perhaps 1979 or 1980, a recent graduate from Talbot, Ron Galla Rini wanted to do something that I now take to be similar to what Escriva advocated (although Ron never mentioned Escriva as far as I can recall). I was influenced by Galla Rini and as a result started a Prayer Meeting at Douglas Aircraft Company. Galla Rini didn’t specify what we should do, and I don’t think Escriva did either, but he urged us to “do something,” to embrace “application.” I was as caught up in application as the movie portrays Escriva’s followers as being. The prayer meeting that resulted was remarkable. Everyone who attended at Douglas was as caught up as I was. We prayed for something one week and then the next week reviewed my notes and asked for a report on whether the prayer was answered. Week after week the prayers were answered. A Plymouth Brethren member (and skeptic) attended and couldn’t reconcile the answered prayer to his belief that his denomination comprised the only true church.

But when the Faith Fellowship eldership discovered what Ron Galla Rini had put in motion they demanded that it be abolished. I was very upset at the time, but years-later suspect that most protestant churches would have acted as the Faith Fellowship eldership acted. It is threatening to have a recent seminary graduate urge a group of church members to go out into their neighborhoods doing what Christ did, or might do. Yet the Catholic Church permitted Escriva to do what he did, and beyond that in 2002, canonized him.

Someone might at this point observe that the Catholic Church has always been more “works-oriented” and as a consequence a natural home for Escriva’s Opus Dei. This is probably true. One recalls that Luther had a lot of trouble with the book of James. But should we also have trouble with it? Is it for Catholics only and not for us? If it is for us as well, we must take seriously James 2:14-20, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”

If we think there is a conflict between Faith as we understand it and what James wrote in 2:14-20, then we don’t have an adequate grasp of Faith. I am not, by the way, accusing the Escondido professors of that. I haven’t read them as much as I’ve read Frame. I’m merely asserting this passage of James as relating to Frame’s beliefs -- and Escriva’s as well – mine too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ezekiel's theological agenda and qualifications (3)

Paul Joyce on page 33 of Ezekiel, a commentary, writes, “The theological agenda [Ezekiel] addresses is defined by a range of traditions that appear to have broken down and to be in crisis: ‘the land’ divinely promised to the patriarchs; Israel’s status as a special people, chosen by YHWH; the city of Jerusalem; the temple; the monarchy.”

Ezekiel was going to “speak” to these issues, but what sort of language was he going to use – or to put it theologically, what sort of language did he have available for God to use? On pages 190-1 of The Message of the Prophets, Gerhard von Rad writes, “In matters of general knowledge and culture alone Ezekiel’s intellectual horizons were unusually wide. . .”

“Ezekiel was familiar with a variety of traditional material of a mythological or legendary kind (the primeval man, Ezek. 28:11ff.; the foundling, Ezek. 1.1ff.; the marvelous tree, Ezek. 31:1f.) . . . When we further notice that Ezekiel is as well-informed about the technical details of shipbuilding as about the places from which the necessary materials had to be imported (Ezek.27:1ff.j) , we arrive at a picture of a man of not only all-round general culture, but of intellectual powers of the first rank. Fore Ezekiel, more even than Jeremiah, needed to express his prophetic message in writing – in an ordered form. He makes scarcely any use of the shorter units of expression, the diatribe and the threat, which classical prophecy had employed. When he speaks, the results are as a rule literary compositions, even large-scale discussions, for example, the literary category of the dirge, which he develops to almost baroque proportions (Ezek. 19:1ff., 10ff.; 27.1ff.; 28:1ff.; 21.1ff., 32.1ff).”

Von Rad provides several more examples of Ezekiel’s wide-ranging knowledge and then writes, “No other prophet feels so great a need to think out problems so thoroughly and to explain them with such complete consistency. In other swords, Ezekiel is not only a prophet, but a theologian as well. And this double office was essential for him, because he confronted a presumptuous and indeed rebellious generation for which a prophet’s preaching was not enough: he had to debate and argue with it.”

On page 193 von Rad writes, “The richest quarries for information [about Ezekiel] are, of course, the great historical retrospects in chs. 16, 20 and 23. There is no mistaking that these were written from a priestly pint of view. No doubt, Ezekiel is above all else a prophet, but the world of ideas in which he lives, the standards which he apples, and the categories according to which he sees Israel’s existence ordered before Yahweh, are expressly those of a priest. . .”

Comment: Am I reading anything in Joyce or von Rad that isn’t “orthodox”? I don’t think so; quite the contrary. Here, both Joyce & von Rad are sticking with Scripture, letting Scripture explain Ezekiel. This is a refreshing change from the non-Scriptural “end-times overlay” the Dispensationalists use to deal with Ezekiel’s book.